Mind Matters: Remembering Rumpelstiltskin

Bet you thought it was a far-fetched fairy tale of little consequence. Just as Rorshachs have meaning beyond  being "just" inkblots, so too can fairy tales have a deeper psychological significance.

I remember Rumpelstiltskin, or at least I recall the epiphany I had about him when I heard James Hillman, a great Jungian psychologist, reframe the story.

Quick refresher: Rumpelstiltskin is the tiny guy who helps the miller’s daughter spin straw into gold. She needs to do this or else the king will kill her. Rumpelstiltskin will help her if she gives him her first born. She agrees, assuming that will never happen. She strikes a devil’s bargain.

The third time she spins the straw into gold, the king decides she is worth marrying. Within a year, she has a baby. Enter Rumpelstiltskin, demanding this new life.

The queen pleads with him and he gives her a reprieve of three days in which time she must discover his name or he will take the child. Rumpelstiltskin believes it is impossible for her to do this. Note that the name Rumpelstiltskin is related to a German name meaning Rattling Ghost.

The queen did discover his name in time, with the aid of her messenger. When she informs Rumpelstiltskin of his true name, he angrily disappears into the earth.

The psychological point of this? That indeed we all have shadows of our family past that haunt us. It may be the unnamed ghosts of physical abuse, sexual abuse, addictions, you “name it”! When we face these rattling ghosts and do name them, they lose their powerful grip on the psyche. Furthermore, that means new life is not stolen from us, but can be cherished and can grow.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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